By John W. Carter, Cyclone Enterprises, Inc.
I have attended literally hundreds of food shows and it seems, even now with the vast communications tools available, that exhibitors arrive at their booths unprepared for the buyer. The following are basics that will serve as a checklist for the new exhibitor or, perhaps, the seasoned exhibitor wanting to review.
Select the shows you attend carefully:
–Exhibitors should study their product–market match and make sure their product is present at the appropriate shows. What seems like a good product to an exhibitor may not meet the same enthusiasm with the customer (buyers) if it is not matched well to the audience, place, and time.
–Know the clientele expected to attend and the volume.
–How good is the match for the product(s) to be marketed?
–Know the type of markets you want to reach–stores, institutional, restaurants, delis–and determine whether you are aiming at the high end-low volume; or low end-high volume markets.
–Know the costs involved so that you are prepared to give delivered pricing as well as “pick up” pricing.
–Be prepared to answer requests for demos at stores, ad money, slotting fees, spoils allowances, introductory specials, etc.
–Exhibitors provide the product, and ultimately the customer (buyer) determines success, judging by good product, good appearance, good price, and timely availability. Be prepared for inquiries for small initial orders: it is not realistic to expect orders for truckload quantities of an item or mixed loads until the product is established in the marketplace. Also, be prepared for the buyers: anticipate their questions, and even have a “frequently asked” listing of information available. Nothing beats a quality product, attractive display, friendly and helpful staff, along with pricing and availability to ship to the customer’s needs. Nothing defeats quicker than a poor performance in any of these areas.
–Be ready to answer all visitors’ questions
–Have knowledgeable representatives in the booth.
–Have business cards for all representatives handy and available.
–Provide a register for visitors to sign at the booth, and/or a place to leave business cards.
–Stock plenty of brochures or pamphlets on the company, principals, and products.
–Have an Item Sheet for each product with a full description including pack/size, UPC#, case and unit price, as well as promos available or volume discounts. Indicate whether your product is cold pack or hot pack, and whether it has a safety seal. Indicate labeling: Is it bilingual? Do you use stickers? Also give the name of the manufacturer, repacker, and distributor with physical addresses and phone numbers.
–Bring all the supplies and utensils needed to display your product(s) attractively, according to health requirements, and in good quantity…in other words, have fresh product, good color, and don’t run out of product samples.–Select the decor and colors for the booth to reflect the theme of the show–catch the eye of the visitors even before they arrive at your booth. Have the appearance of quality–a few dollars spent to make your product show well at a booth can be very cost effective, in that you will be reaching many people from one location and their favorable recall of your product is important.
–Select people to staff the booth who are both knowledgeable and have good people skills, good sales techniques, and good image.
Follow up with everyone who visits your booth:
–Prepare an acknowledgment of some type–a card or letter reinforcing the identification of your product(s). Accompany this acknowledgment with a pictured brochure, or send the brochure separately a few days later, which will be a second reminder of your product(s).
–Do not allow several days to pass before this acknowledgment (product reminder) is sent to each visitor. If the volume was great, prioritize so that those who seemed genuinely interested receive information promptly.
–If possible, make an appointment to visit the buyer’s office/facility soon after the show to give full and personal presentation of your products. Take product samples, full data sheet packages (with extra sets), and be prepared to discuss specifics in detail with your contact. Arrive promptly, in good business attire, and with professional demeanor.
–We can all be more successful at shows (both buyers and sellers) if all participants are properly prepared. The expectations are simple: buyers want to find products for their marketplace back home; and sellers want to find buyers for their products. Seems so basic, but ask yourself: How many bad shows have I attended? How many truly great shows have I attended? The good shows will outnumber the bad if the above planning and performance are met–the success of a show, to a large extent, depends on you.
About the Author
John Carter has been involved in the food industry since 1959, and he has extensive experience in packaging and processing, importing and exporting, and warehousing and distributing. He is currently a Development Executive with Cyclone Enterprises, Inc. in Houston, Texas, where he travels throughout the United States, Mexico, and Latin American countries to identify products, sources, and suppliers for Cyclone marketplaces, which are primarily in Texas and the Southwestern United States.